At 70, Yaz still takes the cake
Yaz is 70.
It just doesn’t compute. He was still getting around on Ron Guidry’s fastball a couple of years ago, wasn’t he?
Seventy years ago today, baby Carl Yastrzemski was born in Southampton on Long Island.
“Hard to believe,’’ the greatest living Red Sox player said yesterday afternoon after a morning round of golf. “I plan on not even acknowledging it. I first thought about it this spring. I have a friend from back home who I grew up with and when I was in Florida he came to visit me. The first thing he said was, ‘Can you believe we’re going to be 70?’ ’’
Just over a year ago Yaz had a face-to-face encounter with mortality. He was rushed to Mass. General where he underwent a six-hour, triple-bypass surgery.
“Just before they put me under, I was saying, ‘Do I have to have this? You got any pill for me?’ Then I kind of gave up and gave in and I almost didn’t care.’’
He came out of it beautifully and was hitting golf balls three months later. It took much longer to get to the bottom of the mountain of mail that came from around the world .
“I couldn’t believe all the Mass cards and get-well wishes and telegrams and all the stuff I received,’’ he said. “It made me feel great, you know?’’
Yaz’s heart event presented him with an opportunity to see and feel how much he is loved in Red Sox Nation. Without the near-death experience he might have never known. This is because he’s been almost invisible since hanging ’em up at the end of the 1983 season.
On the day Yaz retired, he had played in more games (3,308) than anyone in baseball history. Pete Rose eventually surpassed Captain Carl, but nobody ever played more games for the same team. Probably, nobody ever will.
Just don’t ask him to sign autographs at your kid’s bar mitzvah.
Since he stopped playing, Yaz has been a hardball J.D. Salinger. He was gracious and reverent when he took his rightful place in Cooperstown with Johnny Bench in 1989. Otherwise, he’s been scarce. He’s served the Sox as a stealth spring training instructor (early hitting instruction, then off to fish or golf) for several decades and he has occasionally (and reluctantly) agreed to toss out a ceremonial first pitch. One year he joined Keith Lockhart on stage at the Esplanade on the Fourth of July and he looked about as comfortable as Bill Russell at a memorabilia convention.
When it comes to bringing attention to himself and hogging the spotlight, Yaz makes Bill Russell look like Bill O’Reilly.
Yastrzemski is just a private guy. He gave us his game and that’s going to have to be enough.
Remember all those great moments from 1967? Remember Yaz putting on the greatest exhibition of clutch play in baseball history? Remember Yastrzemski winning the Triple Crown, going 7 for 8 in the final two games, and hitting .400 with three homers in the World Series?
Good. Keep it to yourself. The last thing Yaz wants is for you to slobber all over him and tell him about that game in Detroit when he hit the homer into the upper deck. Maybe it changed your life. For Yaz, it was just another day of grinding, getting the job done.
I once interviewed him regarding his All-Star Game appearances. It was not a short conversation. He played in 14 All-Star Games and there was a lot to remember, so we went year by year. When I got to 1975, I noted that he had homered at County Stadium in Milwaukee. Who’d he hit the homer off, I wondered.
“I think I hit it off Seaver,’’ he offered.
That killed me. Who else could hit a home run off Tom Seaver in an All-Star Game, and not be quite sure of the identity of the pitcher?
Only the man we call Yaz. And yes, he hit the home run off Tom Seaver.
What about it, Carl? How come you shun the attention now?
“I just don’t like it,’’ he said. “I had my time in the sun. It’s the way I enjoy it.’’
His first time in the sun came when he was 14 years old in the summer of 1954, playing for the Bridgehampton White Eagles. Just about everybody on that team was a Yastrzemski or a Skonieczny (his mother’s side of the family). Young Yaz played center with uncle Jerry in left, uncle Mike in right, uncle Ray at third, uncle Stosh behind the plate, uncle Chet on the mound . . . and Yaz’s dad at short.
Thirteen years later, with no help from cousins, uncles, or his dad, 27-year-old Carl Yastrzemski carried the Red Sox to the World Series in the most important season in franchise history.
And today he is 70 years old. And we wish him peace, good health, and a happy birthday.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
With a little help from the talented people at my buddy Chris' NY/NJ-based PR firm, Coyne Public Relations, the folks at Candy Land enjoyed their 60th anniversary with a trip to SFO and famed Lombard Street, the 'crooked-ist' street in the world. (Unless you count some in Staten Island).
And, I would have invited Michael Olowakandi?
Check this out, courtesy of AP TV -
Where have you gone John Candalaria? Our nation turns it lonely eyes to you.
I often write about sending a buck or $20 to a good cause. Well, the time is RIGHT to send abut $20 to the USOC to help fund the winter Olympic efforts being planned for as I write this BLOG@TERRYLYONS.COM. Please donate a few to: US OLYMPICS by Clicking HERE.
Can you believe it? Yaz is closer to 90 than he is to age 50?
First a little Yaz story, then a wonderful column by the Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy.
It was the summer of '75 and we drove north on I-95 to see the Sox play the Oakland A's. In those days, you could walk up to the window on the day of the game and grab some pretty good seats for an entire homestand for the price of 10 gallons of gas in today's economy. (Gasoline was .59 cents a gallon back then, by the way).
We watched the Sox and A's on a Saturday with my friend, Billy, and his Dad. Billy's Dad, Victor, liked to play the ponies and he took off for a day at the races soon after dropping us off at Fenway. We had hotel reservations at a Howard Johnson's out in Newton but, after a very good day at the track, Billy's Dad switched the reservation to the Park Plaza and we lived high on the hog for dinner, enjoyed the Saturday and even went out to Foxborough to watch the trotters and pacers that evening. (I hit an exacta and two winners for a big take of about $60).
On Sunday, it was back to Fenway for the final game of the series and I was determined to do two things. First, to sneak down to the Sox dugout and get a picture of Yaz, #8, my hero. Secondly, I was going to get Yaz's autograph.
Yaz and his home-run swing were posterized above my bed for the years '67 to '75 or so. I was a lefty hitter and enjoyed imitating his stance with the bat cocked so high it was actually quite uncomfortable. Yaz taught me to keep the bat up and the elbow out, a key for a level and strong swing. He taught me that playing defense in the outfield was abut as important as national security issues in the Pentagon. He taught me how to be really good at our version of MLB which was front driveway whiffel ball. (Tune back into The Blog @ TerryLyons.com for more on the Wiffle Ball story tomorrow).
The photo went well as Yaz was captive in the dugout and on-deck circle. I zipped in, got the photos and zipped out, with a nod of approval from the usher and a smile of thanks sent back his way. He knew that I was on a mission and it was probably easier to let me get in and out than to try to chase me away 1,000 times over. Smart man, that usher. Plus, at age 15, I was smart enough to drop a $dime$ on him before moving in for the Kodak moment.
Now, game over, Sox win (a plus) and the hard part. That would be waiting for Yaz and out-maneuvering the other autograph seekers. I strategized and contemplated the situation. I surmised: Plan A: No chance at the gate; Plan B: Better chance down the block. (Van Ness Street). And, Plan C: An even better chance, if Yaz caught the light on the corner doing out towards Boyleston.
When I saw Yaz in his Olds Cutlass (if I remember correctly), I thought quickly and took off to run Plan C. It worked. He caught the red light. Yaz had his driver's side window down and I was in perfect position to approach the car. Not another autograph seeker in sight. I thought, "I'm in!" I had the RedSox game program and it was opened to the official score sheet where I had meticulously scored the game. Yaz looked me right in the eye, looked down at the program and scoresheet, lifted his left hand and hit the power window button to close the driver's side window on my wrist as it inched up towards the top of the window and car door. I retreated quickly and saved my wrist from a dastardly death. Yaz glanced up at the now green light and gunned it. He was gone. No autograph.
PS: I did get the autograph after about 20 years at the NBA, 'circa 2005 when a very good friend at CBS Sports offered to share her husband's signed baseball collection, because, "She loved that stry and knew that the ball would mean more to me than it did to her husband." I accepted happily and pledged a lifetime of support to Yaz and to CBS Sports, not to mention the CBS Sports communications staff and production folks!
Here's Dan's story and my wishes for a Happy Birthday to #8. Maybe I'll buy a Yaz #8 hat this year. I think I will.
Take it Danno-